Culture Community To Celebrates Mabel @ 50
DEAN, Faculty of Arts, University of Abuja, Professor Mabel Evwierhoma turns 50 years on May 7. To celebrate her on the auspicious occasion, the art community has lined up activities in Abuja.
Part of the programmes is a one-day conference that will attract dignitaries from within and outside the academia. Titled ‘Nature and Nurture: Women-Centred Drama, Theatre and Performance in Nigeria’, Professor Sunny Ododo of Department of Theatre Arts, University of Maiduguri will serve as keynote speaker while Professor Folunke Ogunleye of the University of Botswana will present the lead paper.
Also planned for the day is a public presentation of a Festschrift in Evwierhoma’s honour. The book, Gender Discourse in African Theatre, is jointly edited by Professor Tracie Uto Ajeajugh of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Akwa, Anambra State and the Executive Secretary, National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Dr. Barclays Ayakoroma.
The Guardian spoke with an elated Evwierhoma on the forthcoming event. No doubt, the feminist author is in high spirit, as she looks forward to the day. Without mincing words, she said she was particularly excited about the opportunity, as it will enable her thank God for bringing her thus far in life.
“It is awesome because I see it as an opportunity to thank God for how he has led me in the academy and the enablement he has endowed me with, especially in the area of teaching, research and community service”, she said.
She also informed that there would be a play production by the Niger Delta University, Yenegoa and possibly, another performing troupe from Jos, Plateau State.
“We expect a play production from Niger Delta University. Because of the dearth of sponsorship, we could not bring a troupe from Jos but I believe that between now and when the conference opens, if we are able to get more funds, we will have the performing troupe from Jos perform one of their plays which they have in their repertory”.
On the gender issues that permeate the Festschrift, the professor said “On how the issue of gender is treated in the book, I have not seen the finished work but from what I saw of the preliminary effort of the editors, you will find a wide spectrum of critical analysis of scripted plays, staged plays and those that have been performed. We also have critical analysis of plays both by female and male dramatists. As a female academic, I believe it is a good opportunity, a very active window through which people can see in contemporary terms how male critics view works by female dramatists and how female critics view works by male dramatists.
“And of course, comparative, contrastive aspect where you find some male critics approaching female texts from a totally different angle, being gender blind and then, there is an interview that digs deep into my foundations up to the present times”.
Evwierhoma stated that works of feminist authors have greatly impacted Nigerian women, especially in the area of political awareness and consensus building. She added that although the women were yet to have an appreciable breakthrough in politics, their ability to protest against mutism was a leap forward.
In her words: “If you look at the women leader or women forum issues within political parties, you would agree with me that many of our political parties have seen beyond women being used to organize road shows in terms of performers coming to sing, dance and clap. And from the inroad Kowa Party made in the political arena, I believe that the changes are here with us in terms of candidature, in terms of active roles within and outside the political parties and even in terms of interrogating the political process”.
“Women are speaking out louder than they did in the past dispensation. Women are coming out to challenge the results of the elections. That ability to challenge mutism – that silence that has been an albatross on our necks for decades is a strong point for me and I want to latch onto that and hope that in the next political dispensation, women would insist that men should stand behind female candidates and support them”.
For the role of the stage in giving voice to the voiceless and mirroring the happenings in society, the golden woman said theatre arts as a course in the nation’s tertiary institutions has come to stay. She dismissed the impression that theatre artists are never-do-wells in society. She does not believe there’s need for a name change from Theatres Arts to something else just to be modern.
“The call for a change in nomenclature can be a problem in the near future when with the development in ICT, we have changes that make it imperative for people to be able to do a lot of things without going through a hard core tutelage within the academy. You see it happening in the film industry. Many of the film actors and actresses never studied theatre arts. They rely on talents. So, if care is not taken, after 10 to 20 years, I just pray we do not have to rely on the old name just for comfort.
“The implications for me is that when you have change of name in quick successions, you may have created impression that you are not confident in that name. Nevertheless, where the need arises for a name change, I believe it should be done with wisdom so that you go for an outright split instead of the name change. For example, where you have department of theatre and film art, is it not possible to push away film art or media art and let the good old theatre remain?
“This is a very conservative view but I believe also that this claim that a medium stays at the periphery, moved to the centre from where it is pushed back to the periphery. This rich development in our movie industry may wane with time and may have to return to good old theatre. I am not one of those who believe that theatre is dying. You cannot kill theatre because the stage retains its magic, retains its power, retains its immediacy in terms of touching people’s lives, getting the feedback and having that fourth wall.
“There is noting wrong with theatre. If I have the opportunity, I will study theatre arts again because it is a course that has opened my consciousness to different possibilities. It has the power to observe people, the power to read into situations and form an opinion that can guide and guard”.